Friday, April 9, 2021

Review: No Way Back Today by Eric Shoars

 


Genre: Humorous Fiction

Description:

“Midlife demands some reckoning and Eric realizes he can wait no longer. As Eric hurtles headlong toward the big 5-0, he realizes there is unfinished business and is determined to find his childhood friends, convince them to form their own rock and roll band, and to go on tour! He searches out Todd, Laurel, and Lorelei so he can fulfill that dream. The story of four Midwestern grown-ups and their childhood desires to create No Way Back Today in the face of improbable odds and middle age will have you both laughing and cheering as you recognize your own unfulfilled dreams. No Way Back Today is an epic, '80s-fueled rock-and-roll escapade for a band that never was!”

Author:

“Eric Shoars is a serial storyteller who considers the English language his playground and who never met a pun he didn’t like. Eric is a modern day Walter Mitty with a serious twist. His writing style is best described as ‘fly on the wall’ putting the reader in the shoes of the lead character experiencing what he does as he does. Getting in a person's head and finding out what drives them, what makes them do what they do is tremendously fascinating. The drama we find in art often pales to the drama of real life.

Shoars' fiction works include No Way Back Today and The Sunshine Affair series.

Shoars' non-fiction works include Women Under Glass: The Secret Nature of Glass Ceilings and The Steps to Overcome Them and Evil Does Not Have The Last Word.”

Appraisal:

Although Eric (the protagonist of this book, not to be confused with Eric the author) is a member of Gen X (the generation between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials) and I think he would say this book is especially aimed at that generation. I agree, it would resonate the most with that generation, but depending on whose definition of the specific birth years that fit in each generation some (possibly a significant number) of the Baby Boomers are going to find this book resonates with them. At least I did. Odds are if you were born in most of the ‘50s, at any point in the ‘60s or ‘70s, and even a bit into the ‘80s (the end of Gen X) this story is likely to strike a chord. Some of you kids in the Millennial generation might learn something and be amused by the old fogies and the lessons they learned in this story as well.

In spite of being fiction, No Way Back Today feels like a memoir in many ways. The inclusion of real people (Joan Jett and Ellen DeGeneres for two examples) into the story in realistic ways (at least as realistic as the rest of the story) adds to that feeling. Real places (for example the venues like the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa and First Avenue, the real club in Minneapolis) adds to the real feel, at least for those familiar with these places. Even though the story is fiction and humorous, the more serious lessons someone might take away from it if it were a memoir still stand. Among those lessons are that it doesn’t have to be too late to make your dreams come true and that the time to do that is probably right now.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Review: Wheels: What is a Virus by Melannie Baum


Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Description:

“Book 1 of the Tractor Adventure Series:

Wheels is a young, curious tractor, and Wheels has a lot of questions.

One question he is curious about is, ‘Can I get a virus?’

Farmer Tom, his owner, tries to answer all his questions the best he can.”

Author:

A native of Ohio, Melannie Baum grew up on a farm and still lives in rural Ohio with her two sons and her husband. For more, visit her website.

Appraisal:

A fun read for new readers or for reading to those not quite up to reading it themselves. Obviously inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic, this does a good job of explaining the basics of how a virus spreads, at least this virus, and the proper steps to limit your risk of catching it. These are all the things we’ve been hearing constantly for the last year: social distancing, mask wearing, and frequent hand washing. Hopefully your young reader has already learned these things and been practicing them for a long time. I’m hopeful that vaccines and other factors mean we’re on the downhill side of this pandemic. But as a fun way to emphasize that we aren’t there yet, occasionally reading this book to your youngster for his or her nightly bedtime story as a reminder seems like a reasonable idea.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 34 pages


Monday, April 5, 2021

Reprise Review: Sarabande by Malcolm R. Campbell

 


Genre: Magical Realism/Adventure/Literary/Fantasy

Description:

“When Sarabande’s sister Dryad haunts her for three years beyond the grave, Sarabande begins a dangerous journey into the past to either raise her cruel sister from the dead, ending the torment, or to take her place in the safe darkness of the earth. In spite of unsettling predictions about her trip, Sarabande leaves the mountains of Pyrrha and Montana on a black horse named Sikimí and heads for the cornfields of Illinois in search of Robert Adams, the once powerful Sun Singer, hoping he can help with her quest.”

Author:

“Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of satire and magical realism: Conjure Woman's Cat (2015), The Sun Singer (2004, 2010, 2015), Sarabande (2011 and 2015), Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire (2009). His Jock Talks...Politics collection of satire is a Pushcart Prize 2013 nominee. Jock Stewart Strikes Back is a collection of humorous stores that was released in 2014. An excerpt from Conjure Woman's Cat was nominated in 2015 for a Pushcart Prize.”

For more information about Mr. Campbell check out his blog or followhim on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Sarabande is an amazingly well told tale of redemption that starts off with Sarabande seeking Robert Adams help to settle Dryad’s haunting torment. Her quest starts off well through the dimensional divide and Mr. Campbell’s poetic prose is spellbinding as he paints a picture of Sarabande riding Sikimi through the night sky. Things then go terribly awry in a horrific set of events. Sarabande must draw on all of her inner strength to survive.

Sarabande finds an ally in Billy Looks Far, who is able to help her on many levels to put her back on the path to fulfill her quest. However, she must find her own way to recover from the emotional turmoil and to find her way back to her own power. The plot is full of twists that caught me off guard at times. She does find Robert who is fully Robert Adams, not the Osprey she was actually seeking. He has turned his back on being the Sun Singer to appease his parents. Finding no help from Osprey, Sarabande plans to head back home without help. The trickster coyote delays her trip which gives Robert time to change his mind about going back with her.

But hold on, the twists in the plot are ongoing and Sarabande teaches Robert about trusting your guide instead of your own logic. Magic and logic don’t often travel hand in hand. The plights they encounter are surprising on both sides of the dimensional divide. Events are disastrous and surprising once again. Mr. Campbell may have as well have torn my insides out with the way this story ended. However, it seems as though Sarabande is well on her way to healing her psyche. Which left me feeling good, however, the why and how of it still has me debating. I have to learn how to trust the author, right?

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Sarabande is book 2 in the Mountain Journeys series. I should include this book contains a rape scene and other scenes with graphic violence. So if you are sensitive about those subjects, BEWARE!

Original review posted January 5, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 75,000-80,000 words

Friday, April 2, 2021

Review: The Ferret by Tom Minder

 


Genre: Thriller

Description:

“As an LDS elder, Louie Kimble, is assigned as construction foreman in Testimony Acres, a high-end real estate development, fifty miles north of Las Vegas. He discovers it’s a money laundering scheme put together by his religious superiors. Confronted by the FBI, he agrees to provide evidence and testify in exchange for his freedom.

After surgery to fix an unfortunate resemblance to a domesticated animal, he is given a new name and history and relocated to South Jersey. He rebuilds his life, with a girlfriend, a great job, and season tickets to the local pro football team.

Then one bright Saturday morning, there is a knock on his front door. His visitor will bring back his past, and change his life forever.”

Author:

“Tom Minder lives in southern New Jersey, with his wife Paula, and writes novels and short fiction.”

For more, check out his blog and like his Facebook page.

Appraisal:

The overall plot of this book is one with plenty of appeal to a thriller reader. Young adult man gets himself sucked into a questionable, illegal situation. (That he got into this situation due to trusting his church leaders only makes his situation more sympathetic.) This bad situation culminates in our protagonist helping the FBI convict the culprits and he goes into the witness protection program, relocates, and gets his life on the right track. At least it is going great until something unexpected shakes things up. What that is and how it all works out is, of course, the last two thirds of the book and saying much more would be a spoiler, so I won’t. I’ll just say that for some (even many) people who think this sounds appealing, odds are good you’ll enjoy this book.

My personal experience was different and I suspect anyone who has had any significant exposure to Mormons (or as they now prefer to be called, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) are going to notice things that sound wrong. For example, Louie Kimble’s situation going in is not clear. It seems to be implied that he is on some official assignment from the church, possibly a mission, when he begins working at the real estate development near Las Vegas, for example. Various terms are used that seem to imply that, but they don’t. For example, multiple times the term “Leader” is used, which is meaningless in the context it is used. Sometimes the title bishop is used or misused, seeming to be trying to imply some authority. A bishop is the leader of a specific congregation and would have no authority outside of that small circle. (One of the few, maybe only times, that the title bishop would have been the correct one, the character uses the term “Ward Leader” instead.) All of this makes those characters who are supposedly Mormon seem fake and blew my ability to suspend disbelief. Had the author made up his own religion and fake terms, I’d have bought into this. Had he gotten someone with an understanding of the Mormon culture and terminology to get things right, it would have been great. But as it stands anyone with any significant exposure to the Mormon religion or its culture including the vast majority of residents of the Mountain States in the US will find themselves cringing and mentally stumbling as they read this.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an Advanced Readers Copy and thus I can’t gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words